The number of foodborne illness cases continues to be kept at low levels in Singapore, according to authorities.

Data comes from statistics on the country’s food supply and food safety for 2022 published by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

Singapore is heavily reliant on imports. Livestock, meat, and egg products are more susceptible to contamination, which could lead to foodborne illness in consumers. As of 2022, 42 countries and regions were allowed to export these items to Singapore.

SFA said it takes a risk-based approach to food safety guided by science and aligned with international standards to keep foodborne disease down. In 2022, foodborne illness was lower at 24 cases per 100,000 population, compared to 25.6 cases in 2021.

Highlights from 2022
Data-driven inspections have allowed SFA to identify and target sites with a higher risk of food safety violations. An increasing percentage of non-compliances were detected at retail establishments from 7 percent in the second quarter of 2022 to 11 and 14 percent in the subsequent quarters. SFA said this has improved the ability to detect non-compliances, which could lead to outbreaks, earlier.

Between 2020 and 2022, the number of food samples tested grew by 28 percent to 327,555. There are 13 labs under SFA’s Laboratory Recognition Programme. Besides servicing industry, these labs also supported SFA in testing 26 percent of the samples collected by the agency.

This past year, SFA posted information about 28 food recalls compared to 23 in 2021. In 2022, the top reason for notices was chemical, followed by allergens and microbial contamination.

On average, SFA receives and investigates 17,000 pieces of feedback each year. The majority relate to issues such as gastroenteritis incidents, poor hygiene practices among food handlers, dirty premises, and foreign matter found in food.

SFA takes enforcement action against non-compliant importers. In 2022, there were 108 warnings issued, 37 fines imposed and five court cases.

Enforcement examples
In May, Chee Song Foods was fined $35,000 (U.S. $26,000) in court for failing to arrange for inspection, examination, and certification of products by the Singapore Food Agency. The licensed meat importer was also penalized for selling a consignment of frozen chicken prior to inspection. The company had imported 27,000-kilograms (59,500 pounds) of frozen chicken products in July 2022.

Also in May, Sim Ee Jiun, the licensee of Chop Weng Hoi, was fined $5,800 ($4,300) for illegally importing fresh and processed produce. In March 2022, Singapore Food Agency officers found that Sim had imported 242 pounds of undeclared and under-declared fresh fruits and vegetables, and 496-kilograms (1,100 pounds) of undeclared minimally processed vegetables from Malaysia.

Chin Sam Chiap was fined $7,000 ($5,200) for illegally importing fresh fruits and vegetables. Its director, Chin Kang Chwee, was also fined $5,000 ($3,700). In August 2022, a truck carrying produce was stopped and referred for checks during an operation by SFA and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). SFA’s investigation found the company illegally imported 176-kilograms (388 pounds) of fruits and vegetables, which were in excess quantities and undeclared. The products from Malaysia were seized.

Atlantic Supplies and Trading was fined $3,500 ($2,600) by the court for operating an unlicensed cold store. Its director, Ang Yi Cheng, was fined the same amount for failing to prevent the offense from being committed. In September 2022, during an inspection, Singapore Food Agency staff found 1,585-kilograms (3,500 pounds) of meat and seafood in an unlicensed cold store. The products, which include chicken and fish, were confiscated.

The Singapore Food Agency also seized about 6.8 tons of illegally imported food from Thailand and Myanmar, following raids conducted in May at multiple locations. Officials found processed and raw meat as well as beef, pork, chicken, mutton, pig’s blood and silkworms in a vehicle. They had been imported from Thailand without a valid license. Two people were found operating an unlicensed cold store with three freezers in a warehouse.

During checks at nine retail establishments, officers detected the sale of illegally imported processed and raw meat as well as insect products from Thailand and Myanmar at eight of them. These included duck, pork, mutton, and crickets. Three sites were operating without a valid license.

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